Son of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley plays in fountain

My Name is Marjorie…

Scrolling through dating apps can get really boring.

Sure, for the first few minutes, it’s exciting. All these men, here in DC…and they are all actually single! But after a few minutes, they all kinda start to look the same. I mean, they look different, of course, but the pithy statements about their favorite restaurants or weekend runs get a bit old. Yes, I like to read the New York Times just like these guys, but what does that fact really tell me about a person? That he’s educated? That he likes journalists? Or that he just wants me to think that he’s the type of person who reads the New York Times? (As a note, I actually read the New York Times every day. The Saturday Profile is my favorite section. And yes, I’ve written that in response to more than one query on a dating app.)

So you’d think I would get rid of these dating apps. But since I live in a neighborhood with basically no single people, and since I work at a high school, and since all the rest of my free time is taken up by my children, I have no other way of meeting single men. (And yes, thank you very much random married lady for suggesting I should cultivate my hobbies as a way to meet men. Do you think I hadn’t thought about that? Very helpful!) Also, I’ve decided that I have to keep trying, even if it’s fruitless, because otherwise there is no probable chance that I’ll meet someone.

The other night, I put Tommy to bed and went downstairs to have some tea and do my self-imposed dating requirement for the day: 30 minutes of scrolling through the latest app I joined. I was about five minutes into the mindless chatter that dominated conversation (“do you like slinkies?” was something someone asked me that night, for real) and Austin knocked on the front door. He’d been out late with a friend, so I put down my phone and helped him get into bed. “Stay for a little while,” he said, which he never says.

So I sat on the floor as he settled into bed. After a few minutes, when it looked like he was drifting off to sleep, I picked up my phone. Might as well get this dating app stuff done. (Moms are the masters at multitasking. Single moms are the ultimate masters at multitasking.)

“Hey there,” wrote one man, someone who also liked the New York Times, “I have two kids who live with me half the time. Is that a deal breaker for you?”

I laughed to myself. I had recently decided, after a lengthy discussion with a group of widows and widowers, that I didn’t need to disclose my marital status or the fact that I had kids – at least not initially on these apps. But it was leading to some strange conversations.

“That’s great,” I wrote, “I have three kids who live with me all the time.”

I left it at that. Austin was still stirring, so I looked up. “Mom,” he said, “when a person gets surgery, how do the doctors do it? Do they use a knife? Does it hurt?”

I put down my phone. “Well, Austin, anyone who gets surgery is asleep. So it doesn’t hurt while the surgery happens. It just hurts afterwards.”

He didn’t reply. Austin is a funny kid. Unlike my other two kids, he often just asks a singular question and then thinks about the answer. Claire likes to discuss every single topic in depth and Tommy has an endless string of questions and thoughts that constantly come out of his mouth. But Austin ponders things. He closed his eyes, and I went back to my app.

“So,” the man had replied, “do you split custody?”

I looked at my phone. Was he paying attention at all? I had literally just written that I had them all the time. “No,” I wrote back, “I am totally in charge of my kids all the time.”

Again, I left it at that, and tried to text with a few other men. This is what dating apps are, I suppose. One mindless thread after another. My text strings with my girlfriends are so much more interesting. My text strings with my neighbors are so much more interesting. My text strings with the people who are members at my summer pool are even more interesting. I went through the motions, but kept typing the same thing to every man online. It was boring.

Austin coughed. “When people get surgery, how to they close it up afterwards?” he asked. I guess he wasn’t done with the conversation.

“Well, the doctor sews it up somehow,” I said, setting down my phone again.

“They don’t always sew you up,” he said. “Dad had staples in his body. I saw them. He showed me.”

I took a deep breath. “Do you remember that?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “He showed me at the hospital.”

“I didn’t know you remembered that,” I said. He had only been six-and-a-half.

“I do,” he said, and turned away from me, readjusting the sheets.

I stared at the wall for a long time. Maybe my kids remember more than I thought. I decided to pick up my phone and look at my blog to find any clues about their memories from two years ago.

Of course, the dating app was still open, and the same guy had messaged me back, which distracted me from searching old blog posts. “How old are your kids?” he asked, and added, “I’ve found that some women are scared off when they find out I have teenage kids.”

“My kids are young, but teenage kids don’t scare me,” I wrote. I looked over at Austin. His eyes were shut. “I’m a high school teacher and a widow. Hence the 100% “custody” of my kids.”

Okay, so maybe that’s not what you’re supposed to write on a dating app, but I didn’t care. (Scared of teenagers? Please.)

From the corner of the room came a small voice. “Mom, what is colon cancer?”

Wow, Austin was really thinking about all of this. I felt a bit guilty. Here I was, trying to go on dating apps while I thought he was falling asleep. But he wasn’t doing that, clearly. I decided to turn my phone over, and go sit on his bed.

“It is cancer you get in your colon, which is below your stomach,” I said when I sat down, knowing I was giving a rudimentary answer. “The cells in your body grow out-of-control and make it so other parts of your body don’t work. Colon cancer just means you have cancer in your colon.”

“So why did Dad still have cancer, even after they did surgery on his colon?” he asked. “Why didn’t they just take it all out?”

“The doctors tried to get as much as they could,” I said, “but Dad had stage four cancer, which means it had spread all over his body. Dad had chemotherapy to try and get the other pieces of cancer in his body, but the cancer was too strong, so he died.”

“Oh,” Austin said. “Okay.”

He went to close his eyes again, and then opened them and looked at me. “Do you think I’ll ever have to have surgery?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “But if you do, I’ll be there the whole time. I promise you that. Pinkie swear.”

He didn’t respond. He just turned over, pulled the covers up high, and slowly his breaths became longer. After I was sure he was asleep, I kissed him on the head.

As I left the room, I picked up my phone, but didn’t open the apps. I was done with them for the night.

The next evening, when I opened up the dating app, I noticed that the man from the night before – the one with the teenagers – had not responded. Maybe I scared him away, I thought. I was surprised, a bit. Had the mere mention of my widow status been too much for him?

I laughed to myself. I guess if a man is scared by the fact that my husband is dead, he would probably be really scared about how to have a conversation with an 8-year-old about cancer, surgery and death. Not that I want to introduce a new man to my kids at this point. But…this is my life.

Maybe it’s time for a new dating profile, I thought, and started to type.

My name is Marjorie…

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • Kate

    Marjorie, just like you, I was married for many year and I’m now raising my young child alone. Due to the nature of the sudden loss of my husband, I didn’t really think about dating for a quite a while, but now, nearly 18 months later, I have started to think about it. I have been on a few dates, but I have not really felt a deep connection with anyone yet. I have felt chemistry with a few men and I have formed casual friendships with others. I have yet to venture on any of the dating sites and to be honest, they scare me a bit. Dating in 2020 is so totally different and it makes me wonder when did this all change and why is it so screwed up nowadays? Everything is done at rapid speed and it is nearly impossible to develop a meaning relationship with someone that goes beyond casual chatter. Like you, I often have closer relationships with my girlfriends and fellow widowed friends. While my marriage was not without challenges at times, I feel that the relationship that I had with my late husband has made me into a better person, a better woman and I have so much more to offer and give. Someone else would receive a much better version of me than my late husband got when we first started dating. I’m not really an extrovert, but I can make conversations and I love getting to know new people, but I fear that online dating is not something that I would be good at.

    • Marjorie

      I mean, I think it’s just the nature of dating today that online dating is so ubiquitous. I don’t think it has to be ALL bad (although I don’t paint such a rosy picture of it, do I?) but I do think you have to put up with a lot of boring conversations before getting to a good one. I’m still holding out hope….

      • Melissa

        Just out of curiosity, why did your widowed friends’ recommend not to disclose upfront that you’re a widow with three young children? It would seem (to me anyway, but I may be overlooking something) that by putting that out there you would eliminate a lot of the boring back and forth texts. It may scare some guys off, but at least you wouldn’t have to waste your time with them if they’re just going to ghost you when they eventually find out what your status is. It all sounds very exhausting to this old bird. 🙂

        • Marjorie

          It’s a good question. I think the argument is this: there’s a lot you don’t know about someone else on a dating site, or even if you meet them in person. So why not start with a clean slate? I always tell people I have kids before meeting them, but sometimes I save the widow line for later. I want people to know me first, I guess. We’ll see if it’s a good idea – it’s my experiment for the month of February!

  • Susie

    Although I am not a widow, nor parent, I am the daughter of a widow (Dad died when I was 14, 2nd eldest of 4 children). I met my current partner online 17 years ago, so it does work! ☺️I live in Australia so I’m not sure you have them in the US, but they have dinners for 8 (or12) which is basically 4 females and 4 males that are matched by mutual likes and is like a dinner party of singles, usually held at well liked restaurants. A lot of people like that option as you get a real connection (or not) to the person.
    Good luck! I started dating when it was in the classifieds in the local paper, and have a few horror stories that are good for a laugh, but ended up pretty lucky!

  • Anne

    A big yes to your last paragraph!! If you ever get feedback from a prospective date about being a widow and having young children, please write about it. In my brief venture into dating a few years ago, I was always left wondering why dates/conversations never progressed and was it because I was widowed and raising children by myself or was it something else not “right” about me that I wasn’t aware of. I began to have self doubt about being “good enough” for someone, not something I ever experienced in my marriage. I don’t know if I will ever want to “try” dating again in the future, especially online dating. Ugh, just wish there was a better way to meet someone…

    • Amy

      Dating is dating—it was always this way, in my opinion. At 55, I feel like I’m reliving my 20s again and not my favourite bits either. The same guys, the same conversations, the sexism, the bragging, the disengagement, the lack of connection and caring. I lived all that and then suddenly WHAM,—my husband.

      Who knows if it will happen again for me. I just know that if I could tolerate the BS once before, I can do it again as the prize was worth it, my kind, beautiful, well-raised, husband.

    • Marjorie

      It’s been interesting. I’ve had a number of men who just stopped talking to me online once I mentioned I was a widow. I’ve recently decided that I need to put “has kids” back on the profile, because that seems like something that prospective dates need to know. I try not to over-share about the men I meet (for many reasons, including that I want to keep dating!) but yes, someday, I’d love to tell the widow story of dating. It’s quite the experience.

  • Randy Read

    Hi Marjorie:
    My wife, Anne, was widowed twice (!), before me. 1st husband died of cancer at age 27, second killed by a drunk driver, also at 27. Then me, I was 24 and she was 33 and her 2nd husband was my friend. She had 2 children from husband #1, and they allowed me to eventually become their dad. Anne and I had 40 years, she died in 2017. What happened for her and me doesn’t mean anything will happen for you. I mourn her, feel lonesome, try to have fun, occasionally succeed. I think you have great strength to try the apps. I haven’t apped at all; asked one woman to have coffee (she said, “Thank you, but I can’t.”), and I think I’ll keep trying. The rejection didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might. Just a twinge. I’m sure that love is what matters. Thank you for writing.

    • Marjorie

      I love that you are hopeful about me dating online! That’s awesome. My dad is, of course, freaked out by the idea of me going out with strangers. But I tell him – I only meet them in public places, I don’t tell them where I live, and I am very careful. I’m hopeful that someday, the sheer quantity of people I meet will help provide some success! I’ll keep you all updated.

  • Amy

    Hi Marjorie,

    First off, I love your site. I come here when I’m feeling raw and need to read another widow’s candid reality. I too have started trying the apps. The worst ones first because maybe intimacy is such a scary thing after losing a great husband. And I’m trying dating out of town first. Why shouldn’t a bit of adventure be involved in my first forays?

    I don’t have kids so my first reaction after death was to make new friends and establish new relationships. I learned that even platonic relationships are very difficult at this age. It gets awkward, it’s not natural to call and re-call friends you have no history with. So these men who don’t connect immediately or consistently on the apps, I tell myself that it’s part of the same process. Hard for them. Hard for me.

    I tell myself that I don’t want to rush into a new romantic relationship anyway with someone who is hurt and in need of a warm body, although sometimes that feeling in myself can overwhelm me. Hopefully, some time in the future something will just connect on a romantic level. There will be a spark.

    As for the men who disappear after a sentence you type out about anything in your life, well you cannot tell why they disappear. They could be called to work, a child may have gotten a fever, or like you say, they have some thought run through their head about something you said. You just don’t know. It’s likely more about them than you. And sometimes there non-reply helps you dodge a bullet!

    • Marjorie

      Yes, I agree. I think it’s usually more about the men when they disappear. I don’t care, a lot, when someone just leaves a conversation with no warning. I guess it can be like that at a bar, or wherever. I’m hopeful, but like you, I’m helped by low expectations – it makes the letdowns a bit better.

  • Elaine

    I guess I have an interesting perspective on this as I divorced, dated, and then my ex-husband died suddenly leaving me with sole custody of my 7 year old and dealing with a grieving child. I definitely think the widow status (or in my case dead ex-husband) scares off a lot of men and I can’t really work out why.

    Nothing about my online dating profiles changed after my ex died, but my responses to questions about why I was single and how much child free time I have did. Suddenly I was blocked, ghosted, and outright told that I shouldn’t be dating and should concentrate on looking after my child!!

    Of course, I got some strange reactions and guys that would just disappear before my ex died, but nothing like this. And I don’t just think it’s the sole custody of a child (or children) that scares then off either, as he’d moved abroad a few months before his death and, although I got less matches once I put that on my profile, it didn’t bother the guys I did match with. Maybe they think I have too much baggage, maybe they think I’m some sort of black widow who’s somehow responsible for his death, maybe they think I’m just looking for a replacement dad or provider. Whatever it is, I got so sick of the responses that I’ve deleted all the apps and given up on dating. This is despite having had a fair amount of luck before my ex died, but just nothing that was right enough to become long term. I’m sure there are a lot of great men out there who aren’t put off by this, but I’ve given up on finding one for me.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this – how frustrating! But it’s also been my experience as well. I will say this – I’m taking a new approach over the past two weeks and being much more upfront about my widow status. It’s been interesting. I have a lot more dropped conversations, but at least the ones who stay around I know can handle my life. We’ll see if any of them pan out. Here’s to hoping…

  • Cathy

    Hi Marjorie,
    I came upon your site by chance this morning, while searching to see if there are any dating sites for widows/widowers.
    I am also a widow, lost my husband 12 years ago. I was left alone to raise my daughter; who was 9 yrs at the time. I had no interest in meeting anyone, is dating was not on my mind. Four years after my husband’s passing, I met someone through my job. Still, no interest in dating. This wonderful man, with great patience, pursued me, for several months, until I agreed to have coffee with him. From the first time that I gave him the chance to talk & got to know him better, I was captivated. We were together for 8 years until his passing from cancer 2 months ago. I am once again dealing with devastating grief. But, I don’t know if I will ever be lucky again to meet anyone, & be as happy as I was.
    So, online dating has been on my mind, but am a little leery, in trying .
    I am 58 yrs old, and would love to share my life with someone.


    • Marjorie

      Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about the deaths of both of your husbands. It’s just so tough to love after loss and you still managed to do it, only to experience loss again. Even if our experiences are different, I do understand the feeling of wanting to share your life with someone – that is something I can truly understand. I do think there’s hope for us both.

  • Jon

    Marjorie, you are a wonderful mom! I personally find some solace in the fact that we are good parents. It helps me feel less inadequate when I can’t get on the phone to talk with someone I’m trying to date because my 3 year old is stuck to my leg.

    • Marjorie

      Well, this is the greatest line ever: “It helps me feel less inadequate when I can’t get on the phone to talk with someone I’m trying to date because my 3 year old is stuck to my leg.”

      I LOVE IT.

  • Jenn

    This is so crazy. I wonder what is it about hearing that a woman is a widow that scares men. Are they scared our late husband’s are going to come out as boogie men and scare them?

    If anything it should say that we are awesome women who are great enough for someone to want to keep us for life, loyal enough to commit to it, and even more so know how to support and keep a man. But, perhaps that too is scary.

    Well, no one can ever take from us that we were adored and wanted for a life. We are just on the path of what sometimes feels like a second lifetime.

    • Marjorie

      Yep. It is a great comfort to know that I was loved, deeply. Makes all the rejections so much easier to take!

  • Tammy

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Marjorie. They feel very familiar. I, too, have tried online dating and feel somewhat like a unicorn. At my age (54), I’ve found it expeditious to mention in my profile that I still have kids at home – full time – as many men are empty nesters (and they all seem to be traveling). Still, no one seems to get the “full time” part, and I do wonder when I’m finally forced to say no, I’m not divorced, I’m widowed, if they think I had something to do with my husband’s demise. It’s irrational, but there’s no question it’s difficult for many men to wrap their heads around, and I wonder if they think of me as a “black widow.” Even meeting men who are accepting of my kids is fraught, as I’ve found the pool of viable partners is so much smaller than it was when we were younger. The good ones truly are taken; those left are single for a reason. It’s a difficult situation to find yourself in when you don’t want to be alone forever.

    • M Brimley

      It’s such a strange experience to try and figure out how to covey to people online that you’re a widow. Does it make you more or less attractive? Does it make the whole situation more or less awkward? And yes, the number of men who asked me “when I had my kids” and even then could not understand “full time” was….more than I expected. Ugh.

      I also think there’s something to be said for taking breaks from online dating for a few weeks or months when it feels overwhelming or disheartening. Because it certainly can!! Hang in there. I’m pulling for you.